Saturday, 22 March 2008

DISCUSSION: Why are movies so depressing these days?

While I think the days of Doris Day chirpily acting the perfect housewife in hypocritical contrast to her bawdy real life are over, I do think that if humanity is to live up to its highest potential for good, depressing, movies that are annihilistic and violent - such as recent Oscar winners The Departed and No Country for Old Men -do not need to be made.

When are filmmakers, musicians, artists and authors going to realize that the freedom to make whatever films (music, art) they want comes with a certain responsibility? No wonder today's world is such a mess! Children killing children. Crimes becoming ever more violent and the criminals winning world wide fame on TV channels such as Crime & Investigation, while their victims lie dead and forgotten. What is there left for anyone to hope for? Where are the heroes to inspire us to strive towards the best we can be, not the antiheroes who encourage us to live to the worst we can be?

John Wayne's impossible heroism was as false as the unremitting evil of today's movie villains. But surely talented movie makers (and musicians and artists and writers) must see that the very power of their art brings with it a responsibility to show humankind that, because of a world filled with random evil, we can - despite our flawed humanity - be heroes, even if only for a moment. Movies that show unremitting darkness as the only option ahead for humanity depress me. I will not believe that we don't have the free will to choose a different path; one which offers us, as an evolving species, at least the option of living in a better world.

Today's movies are as hypocritical in the world they portray as Doris Day's daisy filled sweetness. And with a far worse effect: movies showing airplanes crashing into high rise buildings occurred long before the terrorists of 9/11 did it.

So, does life follow art or does art reflect life? Perhaps it is a combination of both. Either way, this continued trend in portraying evil and violence as the only reality of the world is encouraging the very thing it should be fighting. It's about time that artists of all shapes and kinds accepted that their gifts and their talents come with a global responsibility: their gift is not only about striving for personal fame and glory. It's also about having the emotional and spiritual maturity to uplift humanity as a whole.

External censorship does not work. Each individual artist should accept the responsibility of "self-censorship". That is, to choose to use their particular gift to encourage humanity to strive to be better than what we currently are. Not as perfect as Doris Day. Nor as helpless to defeat evil as the old Sheriff in 'No Country for Old Men'. But as ordinary human beings who have the potential to choose to be heroes, if only for one crucial moment in our lives in the most ordinary of ways. There's as much heroism in choosing to be kind to the woman who pinches your parking in a busy shopping mall as there is in rescuing the fair maiden from the alien invaders. Choosing to avoid a squabble in a parking lot may not be the stuff that great movies are made of. But the moulding of our instinctive reaction lies within the powerful influence of movies and other art.

When our celluloid heroes become more like Hector (oh-so-human in his fear and despair as he says farewell to his wife and son, but still courageous enough to do battle with dignity and grace) than Achilles (oh-so-arrogant in what he sees as his justified rage that has him dragging Hector's dead body around in an orgy of violent triumph), perhaps then I'll be able to go to the movies again without being depressed.

9 comments:

Fiction Junky said...

Aaaaww, you talked about Hector! Frankly, Hector (and Eric Bana) was the best thing in the movie Troy. And I do agree with you about him being the real hero in that story.

About the rest, well, we've talked at length about this issue, so I won't rehash. Only that I think we need to make a distinction between movies that try to glorify violence and movies that try to be a mirror to the real world. Glorifying violence is a complete no-no IMO.

Ann Victor said...

**Blush** I never saw the movie Troy, but I did cry over The Illiad!!

and yes, it's that gratuitous violence and sex which is what's wrong with a lot of movies, books and art these days.

Ann Victor said...

PS But (without wanting to rehash anymore!!)I do think that today's movies have swung too much towards reflecting a world that need not be as violent as it's shown.

Fiction Junky said...

You didn't miss much with the movie Troy, it was pretty awful! The only good parts (and they were VERY good) were the ones with Eric Bana as Hector. After he died, the movie was one long bore.

Brad Pitt was hideously miscast as Achilles, and the love plot they worked in for Achiless was beyond ridiculous! (Didn't you know, he did it all for true love AND he rushed into the burning city of Troy to save his true love?! Good grief, Homer was surely spinning in his grave...)

Another miscast was Orlando Bloom. I wanted to smother his Paris with a pillow. What a whiny, annoying brat!

Err, okay, I am sure that was more than you ever needed to know about the movie! *grin*

Ann Victor said...

LOL Now I'm glad I didn't see it...and I read somewhere that Brad Pitt's "legshots" were not his legs at all but those of a body double...!!! Vanity, thy name is man!!!!

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Kiru Taye said...

An interesting piece, Judy.
While I agree the artist has a responsibility to censor some things, I don't believe in blanket censorship. I think individuals need to be responsible and choose what they watch or read wisely.
I personally avoid depressing or horror movies. It's my personal choice. It doesn't mean that others should not make or watch those movies. Times have moved on from Doris Day and John Wayne. The world has new expectations and heroes.
I have to ask? Is art imitating life or is it the other way round?

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

Kiru, self "censorship" is probably the wrong word (I also hate censorship of any kind!) "responsibility" is a better word - have you read my post The Prerogative of the harlot? I focus more on responsibility there. (But my complaint is the same!) :)

So yes, I agree with you - we as reader and writer need to choose what we read/write with a mature responsibility - that's what individual freedom is all about, isn't it?

And I have to say that I believe life imitates art...and that's why artists have such a huge responsibility to use their talent wisely.